Union Minister Anurag Thakur on Friday condemned China’s denial of visas to three Indian athletes from Arunachal Pradesh, calling it “discriminatory” and against the Olympic Charter.
Two athletes, Onilu Tega and Mepung Lamgu, despite being cleared by the Hangzhou Asian Games organizing committee, were unable to download their accreditation cards, which serve as entry visas to China. The third athlete, Nyeman Wangsu, was able to download the accreditation but was then denied entry to China.
In response, Mr Thakur, India’s Sports Minister, cancelled his visit to China as a mark of protest.
Speaking to reporters in Tamil Nadu’s Coimbatore, Mr Thakur said, “As you could see I am not in China, I am in Coimbatore, standing with my players. And this discriminatory approach of a country which is against the Olympic Charter, is not acceptable at all.”
China’s move “is not acceptable to India and I have cancelled my trip to China on these grounds as they have denied the opportunity to the players from Arunachal Pradesh to be a part of the Asian Games,” he added.
India registered strong protest with China, asserting its right to take “suitable measures” to safeguard its interests, External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said.
Mr Bagchi charged China with deliberately targeting Indian athletes in a manner that violates both the spirit and the letter of the Asian Games, which explicitly prohibits discrimination against competitors from member nations.
“The government of India has learnt that the Chinese authorities have, in a targeted and pre-meditated manner, discriminated against some of the Indian sportspersons from the state of Arunachal Pradesh by denying them accreditation and entry to the 19th Asian Games in Hangzhou, China,” Mr Bagchi said in a statement.
“In line with our long-standing and consistent position, India firmly rejects differential treatment of Indian citizens on the basis of domicile or ethnicity. Arunachal Pradesh was, is and will always remain an integral and inalienable part of India,” he added.
The latest development comes amid a controversy over China releasing a “standard map” which includes Arunachal Pradesh as part of its territory.
Released last month, the “standard” map shows Aksai Chin, which it occupied in the 1962 war, and Arunachal Pradesh, which it claims as South Tibet, as part of its territory. The map also shows the entire South China Sea as part of China, as it had in previous editions.
India in response has said that the map meant nothing and China has a ‘habit’ of releasing such maps.